WIREs Energy and Environment

The Politics of Energy Security: Contrasts Between the United States and the European Union

Abstract

Energy is consumed in massive quantities by individuals, industries, and governments and forms the basis for modern life and lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. Energy security has been the trope that policy makers have adopted during the latter part of the 20th century to ensure that consumers can have access to sufficient supplies of energy to meet not only their daily needs, but also their daily wants, of energy. The politics of energy security have largely occurred at the scale of the nation‐state. The growing role of the European Union (EU), on the one hand, the increasing globalization of energy provision and consumption on the other, against the backdrop of anthropogenic climate change, are posing fundamental challenges to the state‐centric, consumption growth model of energy security. In the United States, the unconventional oil and gas revolution has profoundly altered the landscape of political discussions of energy security, but they have not fundamentally altered the underlying reality that there are ever more consumers outside of North America and Europe vying for those kilojoules of energy. In Europe, EU member states continue to be reluctant to give up their historical responsibilities on energy, even as it becomes clear that EU climate policies and an unrealized internal market on energy make energy security for individual nation‐states increasingly antiquated ideas. The politics of energy security must take new global realities into account, and focus more on basic questions of consumption.

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